Why oh why are we our own worse enemy sometimes.
In a segment ironically called “Red Faces”, where usually the untalented public get to perform and be judge by a panel of celebrities, five Aussies got up in black-face and afro wigs to pun the Jackson 5, while a sixth ran on with white face and afro to pun Michael Jackson. Yes, look at us. Returning to the days of black and white minstrels. Aren’t we clever!
Harrick Connick Jnr. was on the judging panel of this episode. Connick Jnr. hails from the South of the United States. Many of his musicians, due to play after this segment, are African-American. Connick Jnr was clearly shocked to see people putting on black-face and being allowed to go on live television. He scored the act a “0” and clearly stated how unacceptable this would be if performed in the United States.
The performers themselves claim that they weren’t being racist, as the group herald from a diverse multicultural background. That does not negate the fact that “black and white minstrel” shows were inherently racist, parodying the slaves of the plantations. No care would seem to have been taken by these performers to think that their actions might actually be offensive, but I suspect maybe the producers of the show might have been very clear on what they were putting to air. This is the same television station that allows comments from ex-football player and The Footy Show panelist Sam Newman, who recently referred on air to a Malaysian man as a “monkey” and “that man is not long out of the forest”.
In Australia, we also have a brand of cheese called “Coon“. Oh yes, lovely. When presented with the notion that this is generally a derogatory term and a racist slur, most Australian’s will blithely wash this off with the response, “Oh, It’s just a name.” British comedian Stephen K. Amos once responded back with, “Well, the Klu Klux Klan is just a name.”
I have no doubt that these performers were well intentioned, even though they were somewhat misguided. But just because they didn’t think their actions were deliberately meant to be racist, they certainly were.
Australia has a reputation abroad of being a great place, but suffers from being behind the times. And it is events like this that solidify that notion, because this is how it is being portrayed globally.
There will be your conservative media that will response that this is political correctness gone mad yet again. But these would be the same people that would object if in a foreign country Australians were presented as nothing more than inebriated Les Paterson parodies, or treated our Aboriginal footballers with the same level of disrespect.
We only have to look back to the grandstanding days of former politician Pauline Hanson, and the increase in racist sentiments that her statements caused. I had several Australian-born friends who were vilified (and some still are today) because their ethic origin was not Anglo-saxon. Political groups are sending delegations to India to placate powers in Mumbai after increasing attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.
And then we put something like this to air, and then think people are humourless when we are called racist.
I love my country. It truly is one of the most unique and diverse places on the planet. But sometimes I want to take a lump of 4-by-2 and bash some sense into it’s head.